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'Justified': Independent investigator of Blake shooting releases findings

Posted at 8:18 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 23:30:54-05

Former Madison police chief, Noble Wray, was tasked with investigating the police shooting of Jacob Blake for Kenosha authorities. His report, released with the Department of Justice's own investigation Tuesday, examines how Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey acted in the moments before he opened fire, shooting Blake in the back last summer.

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Wray concluded in his independent evaluation that the use of force by Sheskey during the incident with Blake was "justified." That report was passed on to Kenosha County District Attorney, Michael Graveley, who then made the call to not file charges against the police officer.

Attorney General Josh Kaul was first to inquire with Wray, who is Black, whether he would be open to examining the controversial police shooting. Wray served for 10 years as the chief of the Madison Police Department, and served a total of 30 with the department.

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Following another discussion with DA Graveley, Wray publicly announced he would serve as an independent investigator of the shooting. He writes in his evaluation released Tuesday that he would review the case from the perspective of a law enforcement executive, and as someone who has worked in police reform at the national level.

Wray's 25-page report, released to the public in concert with documents from Kenosha County and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, offers a detailed description from the moment police officers were called to a domestic-related incident, to when Blake was shot on the ground, in need of medical assistance.

The following are some of the notable moments related to use of force described by Wray in his report. Click here to review Wray's full report. The Wisconsin Department of Justice also investigated the shooting, and their findings can be found here.

When three Kenosha police officers arrived at the home on Aug. 23, they were told by a woman that Blake was trying to take her kids and her car. The officers then approached Blake.

The incident escalated, and that is when the officers fired Tasers at Blake. According to Wray's report, Shesky noticed that Blake pulled the wires from the Taser probes, writing in his police report "he had never seen anyone do that before." The officer says it appeared the taser had no effect on Blake.

Police Shooting Wisconsin Kenosha
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Justice shows Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey. A Wisconsin prosecutor announced Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 that he will not file criminal charges against Sheskey, a white police officer, who shot a Black man in the back in Kenosha last summer, leaving him paralyzed and setting off sometimes violent protests in the city. (Wisconsin Department of Justice via AP, File)

Blake then tried to get into the vehicle in question. As noted before by authorities, Blake was allegedly armed with a knife during the incident.

Wray writes that it was clear to Shesky that even allowing Blake, "armed with a knife," to get into a vehicle would be "dangerous for the public and the child," Wray quoted from Shesky's report.

Wray writes in Sheskey words he "feared that Blake was going to stab him, and he could not retreat because the child could be harmed, taken hostage, or abducted by Blake."

"For these reasons, he discharged his firearm towards Jacob Blake," Wray writes.

Jacob Blake
Jacob Blake provides update in video from hospital bed

Wray writes that when the officers saw Blake's knife drop to the ground, after he was shot, the officers provided first responder medical aid.

The former chief, several pages on, writes that "In my view, Blake's proximity to the officers put him in a position of being capable of causing harm."

Wray offers a few alternatives:

  • "Blake could have decided to ask the officers the status of the investigation when they arrived."
  • "Blake could have allowed officers to pat him down for weapons, or he could have informed the officers that he had a knife."
  • "Blake could have complied with P.O. Sheskey's intent to take him into custody."

Wray writes that officers are trained to continue shooting a person "until the perceived threat is stopped." He writes that it takes between 0.7 and 1.5 seconds from the time it takes an officer to perceive a threat stopped and stop shooting.

"The officer was pulling on the shirt of Blake and took just over 2.5 seconds to fire seven rounds," Wray writes. "I found that they applied the correct force option to each situation to mitigate threat and stop the active resistance on the part of Blake."

Wray continues: "I found that the amount of force used by P.O. Sheskey was within the acceptable range."

He concludes: "it is my opinion ... that the use of force by P.O. Sheskey during his encounter with Jacob Blake on August 23, 2020 was justified."

Wray reiterated his findings and conclusions at a two-hour-long press conference attended by himself and DA Gravely Tuesday evening. Press conferences announcing charging decisions for officers involved in shootings typically do not even approach that length in time.

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